Something magical happens when you take a single skillet, add some aromatics (hellloooo, onion and garlic), little orzo pasta, fresh broccoli, some lemon zest, vegetable broth, and parmesan cheese. Something really, really magical.

gray bowl overhead with fork inside next to wine and parmesan breadcrumbs

It turns into a creamy, bright one-pan pasta dish with just enough silky sauce and broccoli bites throughout. And can you guess what’s even more magical?

Having only ONE PAN to wash when it’s all said and done. That’s the best kind of meatless meal around!

This means more time to head outside on that evening walk or snuggle up under a blanket with a Netflix binge. It really doesn’t matter what your after-dinner plans are, just know you’ll get to ’em just that much faster with this recipe.

It’s going to become your go-to dinner for the nights when you’re running from one thing to the other, the nights when you want to order takeout SO BAD because you can’t imagine making anything for dinner, and the nights when you’re craving some pasta and veggies.

There won’t be a time you won’t be turning to this quick under-30-minute pasta recipe, so let’s get started!

One-Pot Orzo Ingredients

Not only is there the whole one-pan thing to love about this recipe, it’s also made with simple pantry ingredients that I’m willing to bet you already have on hand.

the ingredients for parmesan orzo laid out in bowls
  • Garlicand Yellow Onion – my divine duo working together to create a flavorful base for the sauce, pair it with my other favorite flavor boosters (especially in pasta) – red pepper flakes and salt.
    • P.S. you could also use shallots in place of the yellow onion, they’re a little milder and a touch sweeter. Leeks would also be a yummy substitute!
  • Butter! It would be very off-brand to make a pasta recipe that didn’t include butter. It adds a silky richness to the sauce.
  • Lemon – using both lemon zest and juice (because why would you not take advantage of the entire fruit?!), they add brightness to the pasta making it feel super springy. It also adds some acid and pairs beautifully with broccoli.
  • Parmesan Cheese – use grated parmesan cheese for this recipe so it incorporates best into the sauce. No grated parm? Use finely shredded parmesan cheese. Be sure you’re using vegetarian cheese if needed.
  • White Wine – we start the sauce by deglazing the pan with wine for the ultimate flavor experience. If you don’t have, or don’t want to use wine, simply replace this step with vegetable broth or stock.
  • Broccoli – Use good ol’ standard broccoli florets in this recipe. You can also sub in frozen broccoli, too!
  • Orzo Pasta – What even is orzo? Orzo is simply the shape of pasta. It is small and thin, kind of resembling long-grain rice. This small pasta shape is often used in soups. I like using it in pasta salads, too. It’s a fun way to mix up your traditional pasta recipes.
  • Vegetable StockI love using stocks or broths in one-pot pasta recipes because it adds more FLAVOR. Of course, if you don’t have any vegetable stock you can use water. You can also substitute with chicken stock, however, that will mean this recipe is no longer vegetarian.

How Easy is this Orzo Pasta Recipe?

I said easy, and I mean easy. I am really not even sure how a one-pot pasta recipe could be anything BUT easy, but I suppose that’s an investigation for another time because we’re here to make this broccoli parmesan version, so let’s do it already!

Start by melting the butter in the pan, which is going to be the base for cooking the onion and garlic.

Don’t forget to start layering in the flavor as they simmer, adding in a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. And the lemon zest. You can also go ahead and grind in some freshly ground black pepper here, too.

collage of steps to make orzo one pan pasta

Then, deglaze the pan with white wine. This is just a fancy way of saying pour the wine in and scrape up any browned-on bits of onion that may be in the pan because they add a ton of FLAVOR.

Let the wine reduce down slightly, which, you guessed it, is going to add another layer of flavor to the sauce.

Add the vegetable stock and bring it to a boil, then add the orzo pasta. You could add them both at the same time, but I’ve found making sure the stock is boiling first yields much more consistent cook times.

Be sure to read the package directions, as cook times between brands of pasta will vary. With about 6 minutes left in the cooking time of the orzo, add the broccoli florets and allow them to cook in with the pasta.

Once the orzo is al dente and the broccoli florets are tender, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and squeeze half of the fresh lemon into the pasta. Stir until it’s all incorporated and ready to serve!

parmesan bread crumbs on pasta

But wait…about that, we’re not quite done, because I have one little addition that takes this pasta dinner over the top in texture and flavor…

Parmesan Breadcrumbs

While you don’t HAVE to serve it with parmesan breadcrumbs, I kind of think you’d be crazy not to. Kidding. Kind of.

Because the addition of these crisp, toasty parmesan breadcrumbs adds flavor and texture to the pasta that’s unmatched. Kind of like breadcrumbs on mac and cheese. But better.

Before I hear a lot of ‘now it’s not a one-pan recipe though!’ and angry backlash, let me clear it up. Yes, you could make these in a separate pan if you wanted. OR… or you can make the parmesan breadcrumbs in the same skillet you’ll make the pasta in before you make the pasta.

Making them first is the best way because after you toast up the breadcrumbs in some butter, then you want them to cool slightly before stirring in the parmesan cheese, this gives built-in cool time. Otherwise, if you add the parm to warm breadcrumbs, you can end up with a gloopy mess.

So while the toasted breadcrumbs cool off slightly in a bowl, continue making the pasta in the skillet, just be sure to wipe out any remaining crumbs before you start the pasta process.

How to Make Breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat, then add in the panko breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, stirring to completely coat with the melted butter. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the crumbs are getting toasted brown. Stirring less gives them more of an opportunity to turn golden brown.

Once toasted, remove from the pan and set aside to cool. When they have cooled, stir in 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese until fully incorporated, and top the pasta.

What should I serve with this pasta?

I would recommend something lighter, and vegetable-heavy to balance it out (although sometimes you just need the carbs and I GET THAT). Here are a few suggestions:

up close view of orzo in gray bowl with fork

Frequently Asked Questions

What other vegetables can I add or substitute?

You can easily wilt in spinach at the end of the cooking time. You can also add frozen peas or corn.

Can I add a protein?

You sure can, just note that it will no longer be vegetarian if you do so (unless of course, you’re adding in some crispy tofu). If you’re a meat eater, crispy chicken or grilled shrimp would be an excellent pairing.

More One-Pot Recipes to Love

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up close view of orzo in gray bowl with fork
4.84 (18 ratings)

Get the Recipe One-Pot Parmesan Orzo with Broccoli

Dinner made easy! This One Pot Broccoli Parmesan Orzo is a quick, 20-minute weeknight dinner. You'll love the bright pop of lemon, fresh broccoli florets, and little bite-sized orzo pasta coated in a silky parmesan sauce. To add even more texture, try toasted parmesan bread crumbs on top!

Ingredients

  • 5 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese*, divided
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion or shallot, diced
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 12 oz. orzo pasta
  • 4 cups broccoli florets, heaping cups
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Equipment

Instructions
 

Parmesan Breadcrumbs

  • Keep this recipe one pan by making the parmesan breadcrumbs first, otherwise you can toast them in a small skillet while the pasta cooks.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the panko breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, stirring to completely coat with the melted butter. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occassionally, making sure the crumbs are getting toasted brown. Once toasted, remove from the pan and set aside.
    3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Once the breadcrumbs have cooled, stir in 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese until fully incorporated. You'll top the finished pasta with this.

Parmesan Orzo

  • If you made the breadcrumbs in the same skillet you'll use for the pasta, take a paper towel and remove any breadcrumb residue (butter is OK, you just don't want crumbs).
  • In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat over medium heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Add in the diced onion and a pinch of salt, cooking for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
    1/2 cup yellow onion or shallot, 5-6 garlic cloves, Pinch red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper
  • Add the wine to the skillet, scraping any bits to deglaze the pan as needed. Let it simmer and reduce down for 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and lemon zest, bringing it to a boil.
    1/3 cup white wine, 4 cups vegetable broth or stock, 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • Once boiling, add the orzo to the skillet and cook al dente, according to the package directions.
    12 oz. orzo pasta
  • With 5-6 minutes remaining in the cooking time of the pasta, add the broccoli to the skillet. Once the orzo is al dente and the broccoli is tender, remove the skillet from heat. Stir in the remaining grated parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir to combine, and be sure to taste for salt levels, adding more as needed.
    4 cups broccoli florets, 1/2 lemon
  • Plate and serve with the toasted parmesan bread crumbs as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  • To make using 16oz pasta: increase the vegetable stock to 5 cups total, and add an additional 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Adjust salt based on taste, likely an additional 1/2 tsp kosher salt. This will be pasta-focused, however, you can add an additional cup of broccoli.
  • To use frozen broccoli: add the frozen florets with 2-4 minutes remaining in the orzo cook time.
  • *Look for cheese specifically labeled vegetarian, if needed.
Calories: 550kcal, Carbohydrates: 78g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Sodium: 1103mg, Potassium: 574mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1029IU, Vitamin C: 91mg, Calcium: 220mg, Iron: 2mg
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